Recipients of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School’s end-of-year awards are, from left, Sailor of the Year Aviation Electronics Technician First Class Seth Burton, Test Pilot Instructor of the Year LCDR Allan Jespersen, and Junior Sailor of the Year Yeoman Second Class Tony Washington.

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md. – March 4, 2020 – The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) has announced the recipients of its year-end awards for 2019:

  • Test Pilot Instructor of the Year Lt. Cmdr. Allan Jespersen
  • Sailor of the Year Aviation Electronics Technician First Class Seth Burton
  • Junior Sailor of the Year Yeoman Second Class Tony Washington

“Execution at USNTPS requires excellence at the team level, and when the team identifies one of their own as leading the way, they have identified superior performers,” said Lt. Col. Rory Feely, USNTPS commanding officer. “Neither Jespersen, Burton, nor Washington would tell you that they are special, but their teammates think otherwise – and that’s a true measure of excellence!”

Jespersen, a member of the school’s fixed-wing instructional staff, was also named the Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) Test Pilot Instructor of the Year for 2019. During the year, Jespersen led the execution of seven exercises across the school’s various curricula, which impacted 100 student test pilots and naval flight officers across three classes. In addition, Jespersen also developed exercises for Unmanned Aerial Systems training and modernized several existing exercises, all of which helped improve the quality of the school’s educational programs.

“Every instructor in these halls is worthy of receiving this award,” Jespersen said. “I don’t consider myself unique. I think it’s a recognition that the school provides something that’s relevant and at the forefront of where flight testing is right now.”

Jespersen said that he sees his role as being not just an instructor and an evaluator, but also a mentor. “I think the piece that’s missing in many training commands is this evolution of an instructor to being a mentor,” he said. “For me, there is this feeling that there is a collaboration with the student in order to make that student succeed at an individual level. It’s not just me giving them information, but it’s us trying to learn together and to try to arrive at the solution, to move the ball downrange.”

As the school’s Quality Assurance Supervisor, Burton is responsible for the oversight of 188 contractors who keep the school’s 44 aircraft flying. In 2019, he and his team of 15 aviation program representatives were largely responsible for the school’s ability to safely launch and recover over 4,300 sorties representing nearly 6,200 flight hours by over 100 students. By way of comparison, those totals represent 45% of all sorties flown by NTWL’s four developmental test squadrons, and the volume of flights is almost double the volume of the next busiest squadron in the wing, according to Feely.

Reflecting on his award, Burton echoed Jespersen’s thoughts on the role of mentorship in the school’s culture, saying that it extended to the staff as well as the students. “I just like to come in to work here,” Burton said. “Everybody is so willing to work with you because it’s a smaller, more tight-knit atmosphere, and it’s a lot easier for you to really sit down and talk with your upper chain of command on a personal note about issues and matters. I really like how this command is like a small family.”

Burton said that being named Sailor of the Year is an important step toward his goal of making Chief Petty Officer someday. “It’s an honor to receive this award,” he said. “When you get an award like this, it shows that the command has a lot of faith in you and they’re proud of the way you’re doing things. It makes me really proud, it makes my parents proud, and I believe it makes the commander proud.”

Washington, the school’s command administrative specialist as well as its pay and personnel administrator and e-leave coordinator, had an equally busy 2019, processing over 5,000 pieces of daily correspondence with zero discrepancies, and processing nearly 400 leave chits. As vice president of the school’s morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) organization, Washington managed the funds for command picnics, barbecues and the Kids’ Christmas Party, and manages the command’s fitness program. And if that wasn’t enough, Washington also conducted 300 hours of watchstanding in support of NAS Patuxent River Force Protection.

“It feels good to be recognized for your hard work and your due diligence, and it just makes me want to go a little bit higher, work a little bit harder, and maintain a certain level of consistency,” Washington said. “It definitely reinforces that discipline it takes to maintain the same work ethic, the can-do attitude, and the willingness to support and help.

When he was first assigned to USNTPS in January 2018, Washington said, he didn’t know what to expect. But he said he quickly came to appreciate the school’s unique emphasis on combining research and education to provide instruction in advanced aviation skills and applied postgraduate-level education.

“You never get to see this side of the Navy,” Washington said. “You never realize how many of the students that come here eventually end up with NASA. Everybody always talks about, ‘Hey, I want to be astronaut,’ but this place can give you a strong foot in the door to actually make that happen.”

USNTPS trains the world’s finest developmental test pilots, flight officers, engineers, and industry and foreign patterns in the full spectrum of aircraft and aircraft systems test and evaluation. Located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the school is in the forefront of the development of modern test techniques and flight test standardization. It also offers the nation’s only training program for military rotary-wing flight test. Nearly 100 USNTPS graduates have gone on to become astronauts.